“I’m haunted. After all of this time, I can’t bear it. I’m just so sorry.”
I stared at these words, a familiar numbness coming over me. I clutched my bible in one hand, my fingernails finding the groves they had left during the times when holding on was all I could do.
I resisted the urge to crumple the letter postmarked from the New Year. Instead, I unfolded it again and placed it with care on the table in front of me.
“I don’t hate you anymore,” I said aloud, knowing only my Father could hear. “I don’t. I won’t.”
This letter was an unwelcome reminder of the worst thing I had ever experienced.
I thought of being a little girl and watching as my friend was run over by a car, and I saw her head crushed like a grape. I thought of icing bruises I didn’t deserve while sobbing in the girls’ bathroom. I thought of holding my dog, my baby, as his heart stopped beating.
None of them compared to this.
But I felt something different about the numbness this time. I traced my fingers over the paper, feeling where the pen had carved deeper in certain words. In remorse, I realized. Sorrow.
I shook my head but read through it all again – the confession, apology, plea. Over and over again, begging for forgiveness I had already extended and for relief I couldn’t give.
This person didn’t understand that grace had softened the edges of events I thought I couldn’t forget. The anger that was stirring beneath the surface didn’t want me to remember that grace had healed. There were still times I fell to the floor in defeat, mornings when I couldn’t get out of bed. Days of loneliness that became weeks of depression. But as I read through the fervent words again, I felt sad for the tortured soul behind them. “Oh child,” I imagined Jesus might say. “Don’t you know I’ve taken all of this?”
I folded my hands on the letter in front of me and unfolded them again. I stared at my wrists, at a black cross drawn over scars. I ran my palm over the bleach-white marks that no one else could see and, like always, thought of Jesus’ scars.
It was with grace that I could pick up a pen and start a reply of love I wasn’t capable of as a teenager, and with understanding I couldn’t fathom as a suicidal college freshman. I sealed the envelope an hour later with the mercy of a woman who chose to forgive like she had been forgiven.
I made my way to the mailbox, twirling the letter in my hands. I thought of everyone I had once withheld forgiveness: the young parents who didn’t know what they were doing, the friends who betrayed me, the man who broke my heart. With every step I took, I recalled each memory of hurt, asking God how long they would stick around. I wondered what was really stopping me from extending the same mercy and treating them as if they had never burned me or let me down.
I set the envelope inside the box and closed the door slowly, letting out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. It clicked shut, and of the dozens of thoughts running through my mind, one cried louder and clearer than the rest: I’m done. I forgive them all.
I turned away and walked back to my parents’ house. I closed my eyes for a few seconds against the evening breeze, listening to its whispered promise of fall and a new season.
I opened my eyes again. And then I moved on.